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Our Land: Special Needs Parenting (am I doing this right?)

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Today’s Our Land post was written by my fabulous friend Jill, of Ripped Jeans and Bifocals. Jill is hilarious and amazing. We’ve bonded over being slightly *ah hem* older moms who parent superhero kids and even though she claims to hate Uggs (who hates Uggs???), I still like her.  I’m positive that you will, too.

Special Needs Parenting Am I Doing This Right

Special Needs Parenting: Am I Doing This Right? 

I’m not an indecisive mom. I’ve questioned my parenting methods after the fact but I rarely doubt myself in the moment.

My four-year-old son Kyle has a plethora of medical issues. I love using words like plethora because they make me sound smart. He’s only been with us about eighteen months.  We adopted him just after he turned three.  In addition to congenital stuff we’re coping with nutritional challenges that carried over from his early years with not enough to eat.  His 2T pants fall off his itty-bitty booty like a gangsta that wears McQueen underpants. 

照片 adorable boy

So, we go to the doctor a lot. We have generalists and specialists. Labs, follow-ups and catch-up immunizations. Rare is the week we don’t have some kind of medical crap going on. I should have my own parking space at the hospital. I’ll work on that.

You might think that since Kyle sees so many medical professionals that all these visits are no big whoop. Wrong.  We can’t drive past the hospital without him announcing “there’s my owie doctor.”

owie doctor

Pulling in the hospital parking lot triggers screaming. Not just crying: straight up glass shattering screams. Is it live or is it Memorex? Nope. It’s my kid and everyone hears him coming. People in the halls part like the Red Sea. I get equal parts sympathetic glances and dirty “you’re doing something wrong” looks.

The screams continue until we’re done with whatever torture is on the agenda. As soon someone hands Kyle the sticker or lollypop that indicates the end of the visit, he’s fine.  Ready to get the hell out of Dodge, but fine.

I’ve tried distracting him with toys and snacks. I’ve tried singing or engaging him in chitchat about whose outfit is tacky.  I promise ice cream when we’re done. Nothing works. The only thing he wants to do is give everyone in the room the stink eye, produce loads of snot and loudly chant “no doctor.”

Sometimes these theatrics get us seen faster. Kyle is a walking advertisement for the danger of noise pollution.  His screams disrupt normal business and scare other patients.  I admire any tactic that gets me out of the waiting room faster but this is so not worth it.

My biggest dilemma is how to set the stage for doctor visits in the first place.  He’s four.  He won’t understand “okay kid, we’re getting some labs drawn Wednesday, so be thinking about that. Want a popsicle?” He understands “we’re going to the doctor today” and in his eyes that’s a very bad thing.

I say “we’re going to the doctor today” and I deal with screams until after the appointment.  I can tell him 30-minutes prior or two hours prior.  My choice on how long I want to hear him scream.  There’s no soothing him so I don’t usually tell him we’re going to the doctor until we’re practically there, which makes me feel like an asshole, because that’s deceitful.  

We recently had to take Kyle for vision screening at the local school as part of his eval for early intervention services.  You’d think with all our medical cray-cray-crazy an eye test might’ve been on the menu somewhere, but no. It doesn’t matter that this kid can spot his dad’s car a quarter mile away and can clearly spot the cookies hidden behind the junk on top of my fridge. School controls all the things and they said we had to have an eye test, so there you go.

Since it was an eye test by the school nurse and not a doctor appointment, I talked it up.  We’re going to BIG SCHOOL tomorrow! Won’t that be fun?” Of course, this set off a shitstorm when my other kid found out he wasn’t going to big school but that’s another story.

Jill and her two sons

While I was preparing the 378 pieces of paperwork that you need to you’re your vision tested I discovered Kyle was overdue for a shot.  Sucky timing, because if you’re a mom, you know shots are the gateway to school admittance.  There was no avoiding a side trip to the immunizations clinic. There’s some kind of faculty Saint Peter waiting in the registrar’s office who will frisk you for shot records before you have one foot in the door, right? 

I’d planned to spring the bad news about the shot as we pulled in to the clinic parking lot but Kyle started getting suspicious before we left the house. Maybe he heard me talking to the Hubs about the day’s agenda, but I was careful not to say “doctor” or “shot.” Maybe he’s telepathic.  Maybe I’m just unlucky.

pumpkin patch

Kyle asked if we were going to the doctor 20 minutes before we left. I told him we were going to the doctor for a minute and then onto big school and fun. The meltdown began. 

I struggle with this every time. Do I tell him we’re not going to the doctor only to prove myself a big fat liar when we get there? Do I assure him it won’t hurt when I know he’ll be held down and jabbed with needles?  This child trusts me and that trust was hard earned.  While lying would have made the car ride more peaceful, I found I couldn’t outright lie to him this time. 

If there’s a good way to prepare Kyle for a doctor visit, I haven’t figured it out. I think he knows he’s safe with me but how secure can a kid feel when his mom hands him over to someone who pokes and prods him on an almost weekly basis? His outraged little face and his pleading with me to make it stop when a lab tech digs to find a tiny vein shatters my heart.

My head knows I’m doing what is best, but my heart says “you asshole.” When you’re a tiny child, shots, blood tests and sometimes even the blood pressure cuff seem like really bad stuff. Strangers get in his grill and give him owies and I’m telling him it’s OK.  I know I’m doing right by my kid in getting him the medical help he needs but I don’t think I’ve mastered selling all this to him.  I don’t think I’m even close. 

Maybe there’s no easy answer.  While I feel inept, maybe I should cut myself some slack.    

Kyle and I made it through a difficult day.  We always do.  His resilience and zest for life amazes me daily.  Driving home, he told me I was his best friend. I don’t often get to spend time alone with any of my kids, and despite the crappy start to our morning, it ended kind of nice.

Am I doing this right?” No clue.  I’m winging it, people. 

***

See? I told you that Jill is awesome and hilarious! Here’s a bit more about her:

DCIM100SPORT

Jill writes about adoption, motherhood and midlife on her blog, Ripped Jeans and Bifocals. She has a degree in social psychology that she uses to try and make sense out of the behavior of her husband and three children, but it hasn’t really helped so far. She enjoys dry humor and has a love/hate relationship with running. Her writing has been featured on Scary Mommy, In the Powder Room, Mamalode, and Blunt Moms. She willingly answers any questions that end with “and would you like wine with that?”

Follow Jill on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.


  • Mike - Jill, you are an absolutely brilliant writer and thank you for sharing her with us here, Kristi! Under VERY different circumstances there could be a lot of humor in reading this but not when it’s at (adorably cute) Kyle’s expense. My heart breaks for him to have to go through this as I can not stand to see a child in pain. Re: “there’s my owie doctor” really tugged at my heart strings. From my computer chair reading this I think you are being a rock star mom and doing an absolutely fantastic job with him. Btw…your other son is just as adorable. Many kudos from me to you and a big blogger hug being sent your way! Many blessings for right and perfect improved health to Kyle every day forthcoming! 🙂February 17, 2015 – 3:00 pmReplyCancel

  • Dana - You’re doing it right, Jill. You may be winging it (aren’t we all?) but you are doing it right. I got home 15 minutes ago from taking my 13 year old for his third HPV vaccination. He whined and moaned but he knows it’s for his own good. But little kids don’t know, and I can imagine how tough it is for you to put your little guy through the jabs and the tears. I feel for you!February 17, 2015 – 4:29 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Dana,
      What great timing having just gotten home from the doc yourself! And yeah, I’d say we’re all winging it.February 18, 2015 – 5:43 pmReplyCancel

  • Lisa @ Golden Spoons - I’m going to tell you something that might make you fell better – or terrify the crap out of you that this may never stop – I have this same struggle with my 12 year old daughter. She has no special needs, but is terrified of doctors, dentists, and anything that resembles a medical setting. I once took her to get a flu shot, after dragging her out from under the exam table where she was in tornado drill position, it took me and two nurses to hold her down while a third nurse administered the shot. She was 8. More recently, before she started 6th grade, she had to have a state mandated TDAP booster. Full on panic attack!!! She was seriously swatting at the nurse, almost hyperventilating, and I had to practically sit on her so the nurse could give the shot. Oy! It was ridiculous. Long story to say – you are not alone my friend and I feel your pain!!February 17, 2015 – 4:33 pmReplyCancel

  • Emily - I have a friend whose daughter has a huge phobia of needles and shots and she called me the other day asking me if she should lie about going to the doctor the next day because she knew her daughter would refuse to get in the car if she knew. Her daughter had already been to the doctor the day before for tests regarding her growth and it entailed needles and lots of people holding her down. I honestly didn’t know what to tell her. I think she ultimately decided to tell her daughter that they “might” need to go to the doctor tomorrow for a few more tests. It’s all so hard. I think we all need to “wing it” at times because there really is no right answer. I love your sense of humor though – I have found that when going through tough times, especially with our kids, that we need to keep the humor going. It’s the only way to stay sane!February 17, 2015 – 4:40 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I don’t know what I would do and feel really really lucky right now that my kiddo doesn’t have such a fear of shots and the doctor.February 18, 2015 – 5:50 pmReplyCancel

  • Lisa @ The Meaning of Me - I just discovered Jill’s blog this week and I am in love – because older moms. Duh.
    My Kidzilla doesn’t have a ton of medical issues (lots of others, but that’s another day) and things like shots, and the freaking blood pressure cuff of all things drive her absolutely crazy. I hate it.
    Jill, I love how you mix the honesty with humor – it’s about all we can do to keep on doing what we do.
    Thanks for a great post, ladies!February 17, 2015 – 5:55 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - YAYYY for older moms Lisa! We rock we do. Interesting that Kidzilla hates the blood pressure cuff (and totally weird that Tucker loves that thing right?).February 18, 2015 – 5:51 pmReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - An excellent post, telling so well the tension between doing what is right for them and making them miserable. You’re doing great, Mom!February 17, 2015 – 7:02 pmReplyCancel

  • Kathleen O'Donnell - Can I just say how incredibly awesome it is that you’ve adopted a special needs child? I get all kinds of good feels just thinking about that. I’m adopted myself (special needs debatable) so I have a soft spot for those who adopt and those who are adopted. I also have a special needs granddaughter. So, you had me from the get go. I would dare say, you are doing it all so right. You’ve got to tell him. It’s not like blowing Santa’s cover or anything. This post cheered my soul.February 17, 2015 – 7:40 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Kathleen,
      I’m adopted too! Whoot! HAHA to it not being like blowing Santa’s cover.February 18, 2015 – 6:12 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Me me me *raising hand for hating Uggs.

    —-

    I wish I had some advice for Jill. Honestly for my sanity I’d continue waiting until the last possible moment to say what’s on the agenda. I don’t think that’s right are wrong and our babies still love us at the end of the day just because – it doesn’t matter what kind of day they’ve had, it matter that we’re there at the end of the day.

    Excellent post!February 17, 2015 – 7:41 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - You hate Uggs?? Kenya!!!! Sigh. I like the point you make about our babies still loving us at the end of the day. So so true (thank goodness).February 18, 2015 – 6:13 pmReplyCancel

    • Jill - Thank you for your kind words. Waiting till the last minute seems to be what’s working…at least working a little. And I am virtual high-fiving you on the Uggs, girl. See, Kristi?February 18, 2015 – 10:03 pmReplyCancel

  • Asd-Dr - I am so sorry you have all have to deal with this. If only there was a way to give inoculations without shots – some kind of nasal spray? I am hopeful that perhaps he is almost caught up on that part and won’t have many more to do. I will keep you all in my prayers.February 17, 2015 – 7:46 pmReplyCancel

  • Anna Fitfunner - Jill, as always I enjoy reading your work. You take what is obviously a difficult and emotionally draining experience for both Kyle and you, and make it seem … well, not amusing but perhaps bearable and human. It’s clear that Kyle is letting you know about his unhappiness, but it is also clear that Kyle trusts you to be a great parent, take care of him, and do what is right for him. Which is exactly what you are doing. “Winging it” looks good on you.February 17, 2015 – 9:19 pmReplyCancel

  • Janine Huldie - I think we moms are all just winging it and was feeling your pain while reading this, because my younger daughter from the time she was about 9 months old hated the doctor. She, literally, would have her whole face drop as soon as we would walk through the door at her pediatrician. It was like stage 5 meltdown once we got there and this would last right through to the end of the visit and the good old lollipop, too. Most recently, she was so very excited about being signed up for kindergarten until she heard she would need one more shot that she was missing. The waterworks came and was told that she wasn’t getting that shot. Still have until the summer for her to get it, but should be interesting when we close in on this though and will keep you posted.February 17, 2015 – 9:31 pmReplyCancel

  • Sandy Ramsey - Oh boy! The age old dilemna of ‘Am I doing it right?’ I’m still raising three out of five kids total and I still don’t have the answer. I will only say that I tell my kids that honesty is ALWAYS better than lying. There are consequences if you tell the truth but they will be far worse if you lie. That’s about the best I can do. I read what you write and I listen to how you talk about your children. Jill, I think you’re doing just fine. I wish it were easier for both of you when it can to the doctor appointments though. My heart goes out to you.February 17, 2015 – 9:39 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I think Jill’s doing just fine too, Sandy and also wish that going to the doctor wasn’t so awful for them both.February 18, 2015 – 6:26 pmReplyCancel

  • Sarah - The constant conversations I have with my daughter about shots! She, too, has a pile (not nearly as good as plethora) of doctors, and they’re arranged in her mind into categories of ones who give shots and ones who don’t. There’s only one on the do column, but as her birthday is approaching, that visit is also approaching. The conversations, the conversations. Sometimes I think it’s all we ever talk about!February 17, 2015 – 9:44 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Tucker always asks about shots as well but for some reason, he’s not terrified of them thank goodness!February 18, 2015 – 6:31 pmReplyCancel

  • Roshni AaMom - There’s really no good solution, is there?! I feel for him and I feel for you! I would feel like lying too but I also know that that would be a very bad idea.February 17, 2015 – 10:33 pmReplyCancel

  • David Rieger - What is it about Doctors with Kyle? Bad experience??

    I feel sure that not all his recent experiences have be bad – right?
    1. I don’t think kids can think far enough ahead to focus on a reward.
    2. The reward in itself suggests ‘having to endure something bad’ or there would be no necessity for a reward.
    3. The words ‘Doctor’ or ‘Reward’ now are probably automatic triggers for Kyle’s fear and behavior for something bad is about to happen.

    INSTEAD – – Try focusing with Kyle on the Doctor event and what is actually going to happen. Maybe re-live the last ‘good’ or non-eventful experience with a Doctor. How the purpose of a Doctor is to make him feel better, keep him healthy, or helps to avoid really nasty stuff. Recast ‘Doctor’ and don’t mention ‘Rewards’ ever. Maybe the Doc can tell him before each move what he’s going to do, and that he will never hurt him. Also, maybe the Doc can get him to laugh during the visit? Make the ‘treat’ an after-the-visit spontaneous thing between you and Kyle with no mention of what it’s for. Maybe Kyle will begin to think differently, and that ‘Doc visits are really ‘special times’ for Kyle.February 17, 2015 – 10:41 pmReplyCancel

  • Lizzi Rogers - Such a gorgeous, heartbreakingly frank post. Yet he knows that you’re to be trusted and you’re his favourite in the end. I think everyone wings it, and at least he’ll be healthy, even if it’s baffling and painful in the meantime. Rock on, mama 🙂February 17, 2015 – 11:37 pmReplyCancel

  • Kathleen O'Donnell - Kayla Mead you will relate, and love, this post.February 18, 2015 – 12:41 amReplyCancel

  • Seana Turner - I’m sending much love out to Jill. People who help children with physical and emotional struggles live a very difficult and selfless life. It’s a whole different world from raising a healthy child. It’s expensive, it’s time consuming, it’s draining, and it’s often isolating. Hang in there – you are doing it right!!February 18, 2015 – 12:13 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks Seana! I agree with you that it’s a different world and that Jill’s doing it just right!February 18, 2015 – 6:35 pmReplyCancel

  • Shay from Trashy Blog - It sounds like you’re doing an awesome job. No, scratch that. A fcking amazing job. Keep up the good work, Mom!February 18, 2015 – 12:18 pmReplyCancel

  • Tamara - Yes, you’re doing it right.
    Although I hope you wouldn’t think my outfit is tacky! (it probably is)
    It’s a different world from raising a healthy child, and I have two of those, but the anxious mother side of me can at least see how vast those differences are, and how we all get sucked into the world of worry.February 18, 2015 – 9:13 pmReplyCancel

  • Kerri - First I am so with you on the Uggs. No matter how Tom Brady tries, they will never look right to me.

    Can I say how much I get this post? Thankfully Bridget isn’t aware about the doctors. She just goes with the flow, even when it comes to blood work. BUT I get the winging it. I am surprised every day that this child who I have to physically hold down for tests will immediately jump into my arms for comfort. That she still loves and wants me when I have been a party to her torture is amazing.

    I don’t have the answer, I wish I did, to make it easier for all of you. Just know you are not alone and I hope that helps in some small wayFebruary 19, 2015 – 10:00 amReplyCancel

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